Lungworm is a parasite which can infect your dog and cause a number of symptoms and can cause death in severe cases.
Although it has been around for years, it is becoming much more prevalent in this country due to the climate change providing an ideal environment for its development.
If we want to understand how we can prevent and treat lungworm we need to look at the life stages of the parasite and how our dogs can contract it.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does lungworm develop?
Like many parasites, lungworm has an egg stage, a larval stage and an adult stage. The adult worms live in the heart and blood vessels surrounding the heart and lungs.
These lay eggs which hatch out into larvae and then migrate into the airways. The larvae are then coughed up and swallowed and passed in the faeces.
The larvae are consumed by an intermediate host of slugs and snails where they can transform into the next larval stage before being excreted in the slime from these creatures. Larvae can stay alive in the slime of slugs and snails for up to 12days.
How can my dog get lungworm?
Puppies are particularly prone to contracting lung worm because they tend to be more inquisitive; however, any dog is at risk of lung worm.
The larvae can be ingested by directly eating infected slugs and snails, eating grass that has the slime on top, or drinking from puddles or water bowls outside that contain the larvae.
It is difficult to avoid all contact with the larvae. Once ingested the larvae migrate to the heart and lungs where they transform into adult worms.
What symptoms might my dog show if he has lungworm?
There are many different symptoms of Lungworm, coughing is not always the main symptom.
- Exercise intolerance and breathlessness
- Bleeding disorders (unexplained bruises or bleeding from minor cuts, nose bleeds, passing blood in the faeces or urine, blood in the eyes, pale gums)
- Vomiting, diarrhoea
- Weight loss
How is lungworm infection diagnosed?
With advances in testing techniques we are now able to diagnose lung worm more readily.
A blood test can be performed, or a faecal sample can be sent away to identify if the patient is shedding the larvae.
Can lungworm infection be treated and prevented?
If a dog is showing symptoms of lung worm infection it will need supportive care and intensive treatment.
There are a couple of treatments also licensed which can kill the worms and this will also be given. However, in some cases the condition can be fatal.
There are only a couple of licensed products which have been shown to prevent lungworm infection. At Maven Vets, the products used in our Healthcare Club ensure this prevention is included.
Many regular worming tablets are not active against lung worm, so these cannot be relied upon. If you are unsure which products are safe in preventing lungworm infection, please talk to one of our vets or nurses.